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CCF - Web of Deception

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by Lisa G.

Rick Berman's
Web of Deception
Center for Consumer Freedom

"We always have a knife in our teeth," he said. Since activists "drive consumer behavior on meat, alcohol, fat, sugar, tobacco and caffeine," his strategy is "to shoot the messenger... We've got to attack their credibility as spokespersons." Rick Berman in a 1999 interview with Chain Leader, a trade publication for restaurant chains.

Center for Consumer Freedom  is one of the more active of several front groups created by Berman & Co., a public affairs firm owned by lobbyist  Rick Berman.  Based in Washington, DC, Berman & Co. represents the tobacco industry as well as hotels, beer distributors, taverns and restaurant chains.  Contributors to this corporate lobby (which advertises itself as a nonprofit but is funded entirely by corporate donors and even pretends to solicit donations in the help us section of it's website) reads like a who's who for the corporate food industry.  They include:  Anheuser-Busch, Applebee's,  Arby's, Armour-Swift, Bestfoods, Burger King Max & Erma's, Chi Chi's,  Chili's, Coca Cola, Cracker Barrel,  Custom Cuts, El Torito,  Hard Rock Cafe, International House of Pancakes, Jack-in-the-Box, Marriott,  Marie Calendar,  National Steak and Poultry, Tyson Foods, Wendy's, White Castle, Cracker Barrel, Hooters, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Perkins Family Restaurants, Philip Morris, Purdue Farms, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Shoney's, Sizzlers, Steak & Ale, Sugar Foods, TGI Friday's, Uno's Restaurants, Wendy's and White Castle. Websites such as as  Center for Consumer Freedom and Activisticash.com attack activists groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers as well as television  and written ads attacking everything from labor unions to health and diet advocates.

The PetaKillsAnimals.com website was created in July 2004.   This campaign revolves around a comparatively unnewsworthy incident involving humane euthanasia administered by PETA employees and requested by a rural shelter in N. Carolina that used gas chambers.   Due to the media frenzy following this event; this shelter has resumed inhumane gassing. Berman & Co. reliably attacks thorns in the corporate sides of their clients in the meat, dairy, restaurant, cosmetics and other industries.

Full story in Raleigh Observer. "On June 5, 2005 two PETA employees were arrested for dumping the bodies of eighteen dogs and cats wrapped in plastic bags in a parking lot dumpster in rural N. Carolina.  The eighteen dogs and cats in question were released by a N. Carolina shelter to PETA employees to be given a lethal injection. The employees had dumped the bodies on the long drive back to Norfolk Va, because they had started to smell.  The parking lot had been staked out because of previous complaints of animal remains being dumped there. PETA began sending workers to the Bertie County animal shelter in 2000, when a police officer called the group to complain about shelter conditions.   At that time the shelter enclosure had no roof and dogs floated in flooded cages.  Another dog feasted on a dead cat.  Picking up animals for lethal injection is a compassionate service for animals who would normally be shot by a .22 or die painfully in a gas chamber where they are injected with a paralytic agent and left to suffocate, fully conscious while their organs seize up, in a cinder block cell.  Adoption was never discussed according Daphna Nachminovitch of PETA.  According to Jack Warmack, lawyer for the two employees:  Hinkle and Cook were doing the dirty work that others couldn't face: giving peaceful deaths to the legions of animals that North Carolina residents abandon each year.   Three defense lawyers said PETA had made no secret of its plans for the animals. On several occasions, the lawyers said, shelter employees watched Hinkle give animals injections.   The defense team said local residents lied about their beliefs that PETA was finding homes for animals, for fear of public outrage.

PETA employees were eventually acquitted of the 31 charges of Animal Cruelty.  The idea that homes could have been found for the animals, the lawyers argued, was silly. The animals came from a shelter where disease was rampant. Some were aggressive. Even for healthy animals, there aren't enough homes, the defense lawyers said.   Over the years, PETA workers picked up animals with infected gashes, tumors, even bullet wounds that were left untreated, defense lawyers said, showing graphic pictures.  The lawyers said PETA agreed to take animals to save them from terrifying deaths in gas chambers. The animals were killed instead with shots of sodium Phenobarbital, which most vets use.  The defense also argued that law enforcement officials were more concerned with making a dramatic arrest involving a controversial group than with protecting animals.  After the verdict was announced PETA officials said they would return to their work, trying to protect animals in northeastern North Carolina. They said they would even be willing to take over euthanizations again."

Statements of Daphna Nachminovitch,  Domestic Animals, Wildlife Rescue & Information. PETA has no magic wand to place the droves of unwanted animals in loving homes.  But we have prevented suffering by providing euthanasia services because before we did so, animals were shot with a .22, gassed in a windowless metal box, and injected with a paralytic agent that left them to suffocate, fully conscious as their organs seized up.  We have also found homes for many animals, sterilized others free of charge, cleaned the shelters, sent wardens to training programs, and worked with local veterinarians. At the same time, we have pressed the counties to implement a spay/neuter program and an adoption program, to open during evening hours, and more, but so far this has not happened.  A terrible mistake was made with the dead bodies, but no secret was made of the fact that PETA euthanizes animals and that the animals retrieved from the pounds would be provided with a humane death. In fact, it was I who met and spoke with officials, and not one of them ever even asked me about adoption. The pounds don't have an adoption program, an adoption rate, or even open hours, and never have. The animals PETA was picking up as a service to the counties were slated to die. Badly."

Image of gas chamber used in facility.   "Before PETA stepped in, the animals in Bertie County were shot and gassed a rusty, windowless gas box.  In Windsor, animals were shot; and in Northampton County, animals were gassed in a cinderblock cell (the use of which has been resumed due to the media frenzy that followed this incident) and injected with a paralytic agent that left them to suffocate, fully conscious as their organs seized up. Photos of these facilities can be seen at www.HelpingAnimals.com.  Most people don't realize such pounds and gas chambers even exist in this day and age."

Euthanasia statistics & groups that support/oppose spay/neuter & breeding restrictions.   N. Carolina euthanasia stats are the 3rd highest in the US at 250,000 dogs and cats a year. Gas chambers are still used in 30 NC counties.  High stats are generally attributed to lack of mandatory spay/neuter laws and breeding restrictions endorsed by PETA, HSUS and other animal advocacy and welfare groups as well as most state and local governments.  Mandatory spay/neuter laws and breeding restrictions agressively lobbied against by the American Kennel Club and its mouthpiece the National Animal Interest Alliance.  In NC counties with spay/neuter laws (Buncombe Co, 2006) euthanasia rates have decreased.   Approximately 9.6 million companion animals are euthanized annually in the US

Targets perceived as threats to their corporate masters include: animal rights groups, health advocates, smoking advocates, living wage advocates, labor unions, environmentalists and anyone who opposes the corporate interests of their clients who remain comfortably in the background.  They actively oppose smoking bans, lowering the legal blood-alcohol level and minimum wage increases.   This information was obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy through a whistleblower. The IRS Form 990 which it filed for the 6 month period from July to December 1999 (under the name of Guest Choice Network) showed that almost all of it's financial support came from a handful of anonymous sources.  It received no income from membership dues. Like other  Berman & Co. front groups, CCF is headquartered at the following address:

Berman & Co.
1775 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 463-7110
FAX: (202) 463-7107
www.bermanco.com
rberman@new-reality.com

Related links.  

Center for Consumer Ignorance U-tube video

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